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Harris: "I can't speak highly enough of the group"

Manager full of praise as Millwall battle back for point at West Brom

10 August 2019

Neil Harris has highlighted a strong mentality in his squad to fight back for a point, following Millwall's 1-1 draw at The Hawthorns against West Bromwich Albion.

Matt Smith's leveller 15 minutes from time salvaged a hugely credible draw for The Lions against Slaven Bilic's side, and Harris has given a positive analysis of the contest.

"I can't speak highly enough of the group for that performance," the boss says.

"I thought we were the better team in the first half hour or so with our play on the counter-attack, and then we had to dig in before half-time when West Brom started dominating the ball a little bit and the home fans got up behind their team.

"To go behind here against such a strong outfit and then to come back and get the equaliser is a real positive sign from us. That just shows the mentality of the group, the confidence and the belief, and to be able to make the subs that I did to impact the game shows the strength in depth we've got at the moment."

The manager gives our particular praise to first-time Lions scorer Smith, and explained the change in gameplan following Albion's opener, 12 minutes into the second half.

"Smithy came on and was a real handful. I thought he was excellent on his home debut last week and showed what he's about, and then today again he came on and put himself about, winning a lot of first contacts.

"Maybe it wasn't to be the first goal for him we quite expected - namely that it was with his feet - but he showed a poacher's instinct, and his goalscoring record is very good. We hope that's first of many from him for us.

"He brings others into play and he's a focal point on the restarts. In the last 20-30 minutes, he just gave us an opportunity to be able to get the ball forward a little bit more directly. As I said, in the first half we played on the counter with good forward runs and passes - our plan A was to contain - but when you go behind, you need a plan B. For us today, that was for Smithy and Bod [Jon Dadi Bodvarsson] to come on and run riot like they did."

Harris further discusses the tactics taken on by his side, and says he is "delighted" with their shape from the outset.

"We thought it might be a game with limited opportunities, and we were looking at the qualities we had to come up against their wide players. We thought, though, that we could win the ball higher up the pitch.

"When you win the ball in those areas, you can sometimes get the chance to come inside and shoot, and when you play the lads on the opposite feet, it drags them naturally more narrow without the ball. Against the quality they possess, we thought we could be able to find passes through the gaps which would be key. I'm delighted with the shape of the team again."

The boss wraps up by lauding the 1,500+ away crowd in the West Midlands for our away opener, and speaks ahead of Tuesday's quick return to West Brom in the First Round of the Carabao Cup.

"I want to credit the fans who came here because the support was fantastic and they were well-rewarded with a point today and a goal by Matt Smith.

"We come back here Tuesday, and there will be changes. Not just to freshen things up, but because the lads deserve the opportunity. Players have been on the bench and have worked so hard in pre-season and have played so well. They deserve to show what they can do on Tuesday.

"Then afterwards, we look at Sheffield Wednesday. A quality side, who have won their first two games. That will be our toughest test so far."

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